A new report from Comptroller Susan Combs says for Texas to properly take advantage of our booming population of young people, the state most diversify its educational system and be more adroit in training young people for the jobs of the future, News Radio 1200 WOAI reports.
The population of young people in Texas grew by more than 17% between 2000 and 2010, and that growth is expected to continue, due largely to immigration and the younger Hispanic population. This is an advantage in a country where the average growth of young people in the last decade was 2.6%, and many states are seeing their population of young people declining.
Combs told Newsradio 1200 WOAI that one challenge is for colleges and technical and trade schools to do a better job looking over the horizon and seeing which jobs are growing and will be in demand in the future. She says colleges are great at training young people for careers that were hot when the professors were in college.
"You have to recognize what the economy is doing right now, and is likely to be doing for the next couple of decades," she said. "This is not likely to be a very brief effort."
Combs says a report by the Dallas Federal Reserve concluded that employers in Texas were 'having trouble finding workers with sufficient skills for higher level technical jobs, such as those in machinery, engineering, and programming.'
Combs says interesting young people in manufacturing, a trade many of them know only from movies of drudgery on dirty factory floors in the 1950s and 1960s, where workers spent their lives performing mind numbing tasks like placing one screw on one bolt for 40 hours each week.
"They need to think of the world in 2014, not the works in 1974 or 1954," Combs said. "When you take a look at advanced manufacturing, they are doing extraordinarily complex processes very involved in Information Technology, and using very advanced robotic systems."
Combs said for this to work, the Baby Boomer parents and teachers of the young people need to get over the attitudes that people had in the 1970s and 1980s, when the parents were in college, that only 'dumb people' didn't go to college. She says that wasn't true then and it isn't true now, but Texas schools place too much emphasis on shoving everybody into a traditional four year college after graduation.
"Advocating to parents and advocating to students and saying, it’s not just one pathway. We've made it clear to some of these kids (the ones who don't go to college) that you're not at the same level, you don't have the same value."
Combs says Texas is facing a serious 'skills gap' that is in danger of reaching a breaking point.
"It is important that we realize that today's best jobs require ever increasing levels of specialized knowledge and technical expertise," she said. Even traditional blue collar occupations are being refined by technology.”
Among Combs’ recommendations...more attention on skilled trades, adult education, and more support for young people who choose to enter the trades professions.
She said the number of Texas Early College High School campuses should be increased. These campuses include college or technical school training as part of their curriculum.
“Texas should also consider incentives for companies that adopt apprenticeships, and it should also develop an information campaign to encourage program adoption,” Combs said.